Sunday, November 8, 2015

31Days - Last to Know

I stood holding the tray in front of me, glancing around and trying to convey a confidence I didn't have. Wild animals target the weak. So do teenagers. Show no fear and you might survive. I hated lunch: hated the period where chaos reigned; hated the noise and jostling for position; hated choosing a seat; trying to look like I belonged when all I wanted to do was run. I hated it.

I started for the table where I usually sat. She wasn't there yet. He was. For some unknown reason he had decided the very first time we met – in kindergarten – to pursue me. Not in a way a girl wants to be pursued. No, he was the wild animal whose sole purpose seemed to be to tear me apart and laugh while the world watched. Show no fear. I slid into my normal seat at the far edge of the small group of friends, waiting for my friend to arrive. I wasn't quite sure how she could be friends with both of us, but once she slid between us all would be okay. Before she arrived, though, he turned to me, "She doesn't want you here, you know."

I knew his games. He just wanted a reaction. Everything would be fine. Just ignore him. Show no fear. He continued, "She's tired of you always hanging around."

I steeled myself, ignoring him. He was just trying to get under my skin. I wouldn't let him. I couldn't let him. Show no fear. He went for the jugular anyway: "She's just too nice to tell you. She doesn't want to hurt you, so she's tried giving you hints. But you didn't get them. She even told you a story about a friend who was hanging around too much, but you were too stupid to figure it out. It was you she was talking about."

I froze. This went beyond his normal taunts. I remembered the conversation with her. He wasn't there for it. If he knew.... The truth of it slammed into me as I fought to keep the pain and humiliation from my face. He was right. I'd overstayed my welcome at her table. And my worst tormentor knew it before I did. I was not only unwanted, but I was too clueless to catch on. Everyone but me knew. Stupid. Pathetic. I fought desperately to show no emotion – no weakness that might invite further attack – but my mind reeled. She'd told him. Of all people, she'd told the one who would love to rub it in my face. And now everyone knew. Everyone but me. I was the last to know. Too stupid to have seen it myself. There would have been pain enough in the rejection. The public humiliation, though, cut me to the core. There was no place to run; no place to hide. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing me react so I sat... quietly eating my lunch, acting like nothing was wrong and trying desperately to keep the tears from my eyes.

What I didn't realize then was how that moment had triggered and echoed the emotions from my childhood abuse – the damage already done to my soul. I had adored my abuser – probably to the point of being a pest. I was thrilled when he began paying attention to me. I didn't understand the things he wanted to do, but I trusted him... wanted him to like me... and so I followed his lead with no questions. Sometime later my mother – with no idea what had happened – gave me "The Talk." I remember my shock as I realized my abuser already knew everything she was telling me... and as I realized he knew that I didn't know... and had used my ignorance against me. I remember the pain and humiliation of realizing he didn't really care about me. He just thought of me as a dumb little kid who wouldn't know any better. Stupid. Pathetic.

I didn't want to experience that kind of pain again. Ever.

I never, ever, wanted to be the last to know.....

So my fear for Day Twenty-seven:

I am afraid of being the last one to know.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves it can be incredibly painful. So there's some truth in the fear. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
(Jeremiah 10:14)

All of us are devoid of knowledge.

Yeah. Makes you feel better already, right? But the truth is, God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. We have none of our own. You're still not feeling especially comforted, though, are you? It doesn't really address the fear in the way you'd think, huh? But there's a reason I'm going there, and a reason I have no option but to "go there" and to look at this verse.

Honestly, I've been putting off writing about this fear for awhile. I looked at it a couple of weeks ago, but was struggling and so threw it out on Facebook for discussion. My cousin answered with questions of his own:
"Why do you need to know something? Is it possibly a trust issue? Is it a worry issue?"
I danced around it for a moment, answering:
"Good questions... A couple of different incidents from my past come to mind when I think about what drives that fear. The first caused me immense harm from being unable to make an informed decision (my lack of knowledge was used against me by someone who knew what I didn't). The second was a public humiliation that went very deep."
And he replied,
"Sorry. I've got nothing for that. Did God work through these events to develop something in your character that was missing, to somehow make you more Christ-like? I'm kind of grasping at straws here. Still looking at the trust/worry idea."
And I knew... I knew where I had to go. I spent the next morning in my psychologist's office grappling with it. Afterwards, I thought I still needed more time to wrestle with it before writing about it. So I shelved it for a bit. But... the 31 Days is drawing to a close and... I know... I've got to go there.

I haven't wrestled this one to the ground yet. But I'm just going to be honest about where I am. I'm stepping out and saying: "I haven't dealt with this yet. But here it is. Here's what I know. Here's what I know to be right. And here's where I know I am wrong." So... here goes....

When my cousin mentioned the word trust... and I'd mentioned the word humiliation.... I knew the connection. I'd read it before. Dan Allender, a Christian psychologist, had written that shame exposes our idols. We feel shame because our idol – the thing we have put our trust in – has been shown to be unworthy of that trust:
Shame arises when we feel deficient, yes. But far more, we feel deficient and ugly when the god we (covertly and at times unconsciously) worship lets us down and reveals the foolishness of our idolatrous trust. Shame is not primarily an experience of feeling bad or deficient as it is the exposure of foolish trust in a god who is not God....

Our culture declares, "Shame arises because I am a victim and I feel bad about myself." The Bible declares, "Shame arises because I am an idolater and I feel foolish when my idol topples."

----"The Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions About God,"
by Dan B. Allender & Tremper Longman
All that flashed through my mind as my cousin's questions ripped open a wound to reveal the truth – the ugly infection festering below the surface. The truth is, I'd felt humiliation because my idol had been toppled. I was foolish enough to trust in something other than God.

Years before, my abuser had taken advantage of my lack of knowledge. I didn't ever want to be in that position again. My ability to research and gather knowledge would be what would protect me. That day in the high school cafeteria, though, my idol didn't protect me. It toppled. Everyone knew but me. And I felt shame. I'd foolishly trusted something unworthy of my trust. But instead of seeing the symptom of shame for what it was... and instead of recognizing the futility of trusting something that was not God, I just intensified my efforts to never, ever, be the last to know.

And that's why when I searched the Bible for the word "knowledge" and I saw Jeremiah 10:14, and then saw it repeated again in Jeremiah 51:17, I knew there was no dancing around it. I knew I had to go with it. Not only does this verse address my fear of being the last to know (not having knowledge)... but it also addresses the real core of my problem. So... here's the entire verse (not just the first line):

Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols;
For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them.
(Jeremiah 10:14)

Oh boy. Knowledge and shame and idols – all there together in the same verse. Dr. Allender was right:

Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols.

Shame exposes our idols.

If knowledge is my idol, then it will bring me shame. At some point it will fail me. My foolishness in trusting an idol that cannot protect me will be exposed and I will feel humiliation. In a way, shame is a gift. Shame is to my heart what a fever is to my body. It's a sign that something is wrong. It is my opportunity to stop and ask myself what caused it – what is it that I have trusted above my God? What is my "little g" god?

For his molten images are deceitful... And there is no breath in them.

My idols cannot protect me.

I am guilty. I put trust in something that cannot save me; something that will fail me. It is a false (deceitful) god. It promises something it can't deliver. It can't keep me safe. It's a dead thing with no life (breath) in it. False and dead aren't good qualities to look for in a protector. Yet my shame and my actions reveal a heart that has trusted my own knowledge to keep me out of trouble much more than I've trusted the real, living, all-powerful, all-knowing God. Actually, there's a secondary god I served as well. My psychologist pointed out that my quest to accumulate knowledge was also a grasp at control. There is an underlying belief that if I have enough knowledge and control, I can keep myself from getting hurt. Both are false (deceitful) gods. Both have failed me. I need to quit bowing down to them and trust the only Living God.

But... if I'm honest... on that morning when my cousin asked the questions that exposed my false gods and my lack of trust in the one true God... my heart suddenly cried out with an unexpected question that my "good girl" self had always managed to squelch in the past: "But how can I trust a God who won't protect me?" It took me by surprise. I hadn't let myself grapple with that question before. I know what I'm supposed to do – trust. So I couldn't let myself even ask that question. But now it was out there... and I had to deal with it.

My psychologist turned it on me a little when he questioned, "What are you trusting God for?" And then we looked at Psalm 46:1

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
(Psalms 46:1)

He pointed out that the psalmist was trusting God IN trouble; not to keep him FROM trouble. It reminded me of something I'd written over a decade ago about learning to trust God to keep me in the fall and how I thought that actually took more faith than trusting Him to keep me from the fall. Apparently, I still need work on that.

I know the last three paragraphs haven't really been about the Truth relating to the fear of being the last to know. I pretty much wrapped that up with the need to trust the only Living God. But... I wanted to be honest; transparent; authentic. I wanted to admit that I'm still grappling with trusting a God who lets bad things happen. If I'm honest, I know He will be my refuge and strength in trouble, but I'd just as soon avoid the trouble to begin with. And that's hard for me to let go of. That's where I'm tempted to pick up my idols. So I'm still grappling; still wrestling. But I look at Jacob... and I know God honors wrestling.

So... circling back to the fear... and back to the very first point I made, that all men are devoid of knowledge...

Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
(Daniel 22:20-23)

All wisdom, power and knowledge belong to God.

Daniel realized that wisdom (and knowledge) belongs to God. He acknowledged that God alone deserved the thanks and praise for any wisdom he (Daniel) possessed. He realized where his wisdom and power came from.

Any knowledge or wisdom I have has been spoken to me by God.

The cool thing is the way this ties into the fear from the last two posts on my fear of not hearing God. Listen to what Daniel is saying: if I have any wisdom or knowledge – any at all – God has revealed it to me. I've heard His voice! Realizing that... somehow soothes my soul... inspires my trust. Still wrestling, but getting closer.

The truth is, knowledge itself isn't bad. It's when I make it an idol – believe that it's something that can protect me – that I get into trouble. And... looking back to the garden of Eden and Eve as she reached for the tree of knowledge... it looks like it just might be the oldest idol there is!

Father God, it seems strange to say, but thank You for shame. Thank You for the call to realize something is wrong, and the opportunity to come to repentance on it. Honestly, I'm not sure I'm quite there yet. I fight against laying down my idols... laying down what feels like is my best shot at self-protection. Help me to embrace the fact that it's a lie and to embrace the fact that You are the Truth. It's dead and You live. It will fail me, but You never will. I don't want to have any other gods before You, Father. I want to trust. But there's still a part of me shaking in the dark with a death grip on a dead thing... in the disillusioned hopes that it can protect me. So, Daddy, I'll pray the only way I know how... "I do believe; help my unbelief!"

Fear: I am afraid of being the last one to know.


  • All of us are devoid of knowledge. (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • Shame exposes our idols. (And one of mine is knowledge). (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • My idols (knowledge and control) cannot protect me. (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • All wisdom, power and knowledge belong to God. (Daniel 22:20-23)
  • Any knowledge or wisdom I have has been spoken to me by God. (Daniel 22:20-23)

Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).

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